Dearest Rachel –
I have a hard time with the whole “What Would [fill in the blank; it’s usually Jesus, but some people use other names as well where applicable] Do?” question sometimes. Not because I don’t know what they’d do in the given situation, necessarily, but because, with enough rationalization, you can claim justification for doing just about anything. I think you were around to see the meme that pointed out that even the original version of the question had to allow for the possibility that flipping tables and beating people with whips could still be considered a legitimate course of action. Even if you have plenty of documentation on a historical or famous person, context matters in any attempt to emulate them.
Along those same lines, we never quite got to the point where we were perfectly aligned, in terms of our thought processes. You’re familiar with the married couples who are, after so many years, almost a two-person hive mind. They finish each other’s sentences and in so many other ways virtually think alike. To speak to one is to speak to either of them. I don’t think we ever got to that point in our relationship, to be honest. We both had our secrets and quirks that precluded the other from understanding each other completely and inherently.
But the one thing that we had that made up for that lack of commonality was the fact that we always were communicating with each other. Maybe not about everything – I wouldn’t generally go into excruciating detail about work (because the technical details were dull and abstruse even to me at time – why subject you to that? – and the hours-long conferences/lectures were that much worse), nor would you relate every conversation you had with your friends and fellow mothers – but enough to keep each other informed as to our days and separate lives.
This was particularly true about our finances. Which makes a certain amount of sense, since I’d gotten in the habit of keeping track of every payment we made, and approximately what it was for ever since we’d been tapped to review material for a financial responsibility seminar to take place at church (which I can’t recall if it actually happened, but the church did begin regularly hosting a different lesson series a few years thereafter). I tried to make it clear that, whenever I did ask you about a certain charge on the credit card, it was merely for the sake of determining how to classify it on my worksheet; there was never an accusatory intent in my query.
Since then, I’ve come to understand that there tends to be more martial strife about finances than about the topics one might expect to tear a marriage apart, like sex and infidelity. On the other hand, maybe there’s a certain logic to it; as temptations go, the one to spend money on this or that frivolous thing is much more common than that of any potential extramarital partner (especially in the circles we live in). And if you can’t trust your partner with staying within a budget (and most families have to deal with a budget, since there’s only so much money on hand to go around), that doesn’t bode well for trusting them anywhere else. In a way, spending money on the sly could be considered a different stripe of infidelity.
But that analogy can be taken too far, and too literally. As with our social lives, we gave each other space; like with your parents, you had your own bank account (particularly when you began earning your own money as a dog-walker). What you made with that job, and what you spent of those funds, I never bothered to ask about (save for tax time, when I would include your 1099 into our calculations). It was an unspoken situation, but it was a case where we allowed spaces in our togetherness. To refer to it as a form of infidelity would be decidedly uncharitable of me.
Especially since – and this is the point of my story – once your parents passed away, leaving you with enough for us to live on, if we so chose, you graciously allowed me to retire from my situation at work. “You went through all that time and heartache to support me,” you told me more than once, “now, it’s my turn.” To be sure, any consultations we made with their bank or our broker, we did together, and always made sure to come to some agreement regarding where to invest and how much. The latter, in particular, would express admiration and amusement about our approach to the process, and informed us multiple time about how we were his favorite clients because of it.
However, I never got over the fact that I considered those funds to be ‘your’ money, to be used as you so wished. So it was always mildly surprising when you would come to me about something you wanted to do with it in terms of spending it – particularly if you intended to help someone out with it. I would always acquiesce – usually with the comment that “it’s your money, after all,” to which you would usually correct me, saying “Our money now, honey.” – and write the check. Sometimes, I was part of handing it over to the person or group; other times – especially if it was to assist a friend of yours – I was out of the picture after that. But the fact that you would always check in with me – maybe not so much to ask permission (which I would have considered absolutely absurd) as to keep me informed – I’m grateful for it. Especially since I’ve learned that our mutual approach to money management is far less common that I’d been led to believe.
So now, it seems a friend of yours is in need. I won’t go into details; it isn’t my story to tell, and I’ve probably talked too much about finances in such a public forum as this already. But from our experience together, I know what it is that you would do, and I figure that, since you always kept me in the loop about these sorts of things, I should let you know I will continue the tradition, both in offering assistance and in informing you that I’m doing so.
It’s what you would have done, after all.
Take care, honey. Keep an eye out for me, and wish me (and your friend) luck – we’re going to need it.
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